As we continue to roll out a revamped reputation strategy for the University of Denver (DU), our visual identity work remains the most critical work that we have underway right now. While we’re gathering data and insight from the community regarding the changes this work will bring, I thought it beneficial to discuss the "whys” of the project. I’ve talked in a previous post about some fundamentals to keep in mind when communicating change and most recently presented a discussion about effective change leadership at the American Marketing Association’s 2021 Symposium for the Marketing of Higher Education and shared seven takeaways for leading change. Those takeaways are listed at the end of the post, but first, I want to answer two questions that are bound to come up in any organization during this type of initiative, namely, "Why are we changing our logo? And why now?"
A change to something as fundamental as our logo certainly isn’t done lightly or without reason. These changes are hard, and yet, sometimes necessary. In the case of the work currently underway here at DU, our aim is to:
- Amplify our visibility by unifying marks through all touchpoints within our brand ecosystem
- Incorporate our organizational personality traits to differentiate ourselves in the marketplace
- Solve for current technical issues with existing marks to enhance our marketing and communications efforts
In 2020, as a part of our market research, a panel of design experts from across the country was asked to evaluate DU’s current logo suite. The major takeaway from this study was that, while these logos are adequate, they are not as engaging as they could be—a missed opportunity for reputation building and differentiation from competitors.
The recommendation came back to explore marks that moved from informative (nodding simply to our place within higher education and our location) to emotive and reflective of our personality traits to engage audiences emotionally and better connect with our forward-thinking aspirations and personality traits rather than our tradition, locale, and history.
When we began scoping what this process and project might look like, several additional problems with our current academic logo came to light and reinforced the need for a change:
- The lack of contrast between gold and crimson in our current logo suite causes legibility and accessibility issues, especially when the logos are small and/or in digital spaces
- Our primary academic mark, the shield, loses critical detail necessary to identify and replicate it consistently when scaled down for digital advertising, social media, and certain web applications
- The current hierarchy of the overall logo system reduces the name of academic units to the point they are difficult to discern, to the detriment of unit-based marketing activities
With all of this in mind, timing became a critical factor. Now is the time to make a change before we have the national footprint we will in a few years. With a looming enrollment cliff and increased competition for high school students, we need to get ahead of our competitors and proactively carve out our space in noisy marketplaces. The fact that 70 percent of our undergraduate class each year comes from outside of Colorado makes our job ever more challenging.
Ultimately, this work is intended to increase the visibility of the brand to aid in revenue generation and recruitment activities. With marketing buys split across the institution and critical but limited athletics visibility, unifying our marks will allow us to leverage and gain the benefit of every interaction and experience audiences have with our brand as we move into new markets and engage new audiences.
Brands are just as emotional as they are rational. This is a difficult process on many levels for many people throughout our community, and we want to thank you for your help, insights, and support throughout this process. We’re committed to creating a solution that aids us on all of the fronts listed above. We have a few more months of dialogues, testing, and refinement before us here at DU, and because of our community, I’m confident we will land in a great place.
In closing, and as promised, I’d like to share 7 Takeaways for Leading Change that I’ve utilized and honed throughout my career. My goal is to consistently be mindful of these tips during the rollout of this strategic reputation change initiative, and I hope they aid you as you do similar work within your organization.
- Transparency—Reduce risk and share in a way that others can easily see it
- Inclusion—Make people feel part of it; launching change is everybody’s job
- Frequency—Create a cadence of communications to decrease reliance on unreliable communication networks and channels
- Avoidance—Focus on what is right, not what people like
- Measured—Build up to critical mass versus big bang
- Consistency—You need to make repeated impressions to effectively launch a change
- Clarity—Coherence builds confidence and helps turn ideas into reality